Top 2017 Suggestions for your Sailing Travel in Aeolian Islands Sicily

The Aeolian Islands (Isole Eolie or Isole Lipari in Italian) are seven small inhabited isles off the northern coast of Sicily, close to the point of Italy’s toe. The islands are popular as a vacation destination, offering sunshine, beaches and natural beauty. In addition to sunbathers, they also attract thrill-seekers; two of the isles continue to be active volcanoes and the archipelago was formed by volcanic activity. While this fact may put off some travellers , many more are attracted to the sensational scene, hot mud baths, as well as the opportunity to hike up to the craters of Vulcano and Stromboli. The isles are grouped together as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

sailing-travel-in-aeolian-islands-sicily

Even though the Aeolian Islands aren’t particularly well-known to English-speaking tourists, they’re wonderful places to spend a relaxed week or fortnight. On these ‘pearls of the Mediterranean’ descend en-masse in July and August Italian holiday-makers. But in May, June or September, you must appreciate fine weather and magnificent views minus the crowds.

The islands really are areas to come for a longer stay, unwind and to sightsee in wonderful, unusual surroundings. The hardest thing is leaving.

Which one is the best for your sailing travel in Aeolian Islands Sicily?

Lipari
The practical base is the island of Lipari. This is actually the biggest island with the most to offer – a pretty, reasonable-sized town with a choice of lodging and the busiest port for hydrofoil and ferry connections. You can make daytrips to the other islands from here. Panarea is the most chic island, little and exclusive with prices to match. Vulcano has famous sulphurous-smelling mud baths, a fuming volcano that is gradually and shores. Salina is natural and green along with a good destination for a quieter stay. Alicudi and Filicudi are the most remote; two extinct volcanoes emerging from the sea and feeling like the end of the world; transportation on Alicudi is by donkey.

travel-in-aeolian-islands-sicily

To be able to explore each of the islands completely, you would really have to base yourself overnight on each. Ferry timetables and tourist excursions can leave you feeling rushed on day trips. Obviously, though, this wouldn’t make for a very relaxing holiday, so most tourists prefer to select one isle foundation and pay short visits to the others.

Things to do in Aeolian Islands Sicily

You can’t visit the Aeolian archipelago without paying a trip to see the eruptions on Stromboli. Should you not fancy hiking up the volcano, you can catch an evening boat trip (setting off in the day from other islands) to observe the volcano’s fiery eruptions from the waters close to the Sciara del fuoco, a lava-scarred slope. Boat trips are the principal tourist action on the islands and in the tourist season you’ll be approached every five minutes by favourable touts and agencies offering tours. A cruise will typically tour the rugged coastline, point out interesting sights, drop you off for a ramble around little isle villages, give travellers an opportunity to swim from the boat and maybe, in the event that you are fortunate, see dolphins.

sailing-travel-in-aeolian-islands-sicily

Stromboli
For individuals who enjoy island hopping, the islands are connected by regular ferry services, although these are much less picturesque than the tourist cruises. Each of the isles has at least one picturesque village to explore, with lots of photo-opportunities. The bigger of the islands have local bus services to assist you get around. As well as hidden bays and rugged coasts, the isles have a couple beaches, usually volcanic sand or pebbles. The Aeolian Islands are place by the presence of obsidian on early trading courses and many Bronze Age settlements are discovered. The very best discoveries from local shipwrecks, and from the islands, are displayed in an outstanding archaeological museum in Lipari’s old walled citadel – another ‘must’ for visitors to the islands. Important displays contain Greek pottery dating from the time in Lipari as a Greek colony, and a collection of tiny theatrical masks found in interments that are local.

Although recreational walking isn’t especially publicised locally, the landscape, sea views and old mule tracks make the islands appealing to walkers. On Stromboli and Vulcano you can follow popular routes to the top of the volcanoes’ craters – on Stromboli you must hire a guide – which enable you to see gas emissions on Vulcano and lava eruptions on Stromboli. These are requiring walks, and some determination is required by much of the hiking on the isles since the isles originated as steep-sloped volcanoes. But although there are not enormous numbers of well-marked footpaths, you will find a variety of walks including less challenging ambles and rambles among butterflies blossoms and traces of the islands’ past.

aeolian-islands-sicily

Salina
Travel to the Aeolian Islands involves a multi-stage journey, which can be time consuming and dependent on sea conditions. For this particular reason I recommend the isles for a longer stay rather than a weekend rest, and also would guide allowing plenty of time for the journey to and from the airport.

There is no airport, but if you’re feeling wealthy you can arrive by helicopter (see our links panel). The key port of departure for the Aeolian Islands is Milazzo, situated on the northern shore of Sicily. There are frequent fast ferry services from Milazzo, and this is the reliable and most convenient port to aim for. However, there are also services (more regular in summer) from Palermo and Messina in Sicily and from Reggio di Calabria in mainland Italy. During the summer tourist season, there are also occasional ferries from local ports that are other – these are often designed as day trips to the isles, but may be a viable option for travellers needing to stay longer.

Related: Travel tips for your Aeolian Yacht Charter

The closest airports are Catania (BA flights from the UK), Palermo (Ryanair and Easyjet from London), Reggio Calabria and Lamezia Terme (Ryanair from London). The most clear-cut way to reach the islands from the UK is to fly to Catania Airport, then take an immediate bus connection or private transport to Milazzo port, where you can catch a ferry to the other isles as well as Lipari. The direct bus is run by Giuntabus and leaves from outside the airport. Regrettably it truly is seasonal with varying frequencies, although it is a fast and effective service. Competitors sometimes run on a less formal basis; you could try contacting your resort to see if they can reserve an alternative for you. The choice is to catch a bus from Catania Airport to Messina run by SAIS, which takes under two hours, or stay in Catania in the event the bus transfer times aren’t suitable for your flight. This halts at Messina railway station next to a bus stop for a Giuntabus service to Milazzo port, which takes 50 minutes.

By the port the buses stop on the road right in Milazzo. Ferry offices are on one side of the road; the jetty for catching quick boat services is the different side of the street. It is also possible to catch a train from Catania to Milazzo taking about 2-3 hours and shifting in Messina. The drawback of rail travel is you will have to use connecting buses or taxis to reach the airport in Catania, and also the port in Milazzo.

Both principal ferry businesses providing ferry services to the isles are Siremar and Liberty Lines (previously Ustica Lines). These companies’ websites, where you are able to find the latest schedules and costs, are recorded in our links panel on the right. Larger, slower ferries also ply the routes, and these carry passengers together with cars although most of the connections are by rapid hydrofoils and catamarans. There are limitations on bringing vehicles to the islands, and tourists will usually find it even more convenient to leave behind cars on the mainland.

Related: The perfect yachting itinerary: Sicily Amalfi Coast yacht charter route

You may travel by train to Naples and then catch a ferry to the islands without flying to reach the Aeolian Islands. This journey might be carried through in a couple of days changing trains and stations for an overnight service to Rome by taking an afternoon service from London to Paris, arriving in the morning and changing to a train to Naples.